There’s a palpable buzz inside the gym at the Harry & Sandy Rosenzweig Boys and Girls Club in metro Phoenix.
“I’m super excited but also kind of nervous just to see if I can teach the kids,” said Vanessa Rivera, one of 10 Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation students preparing to host a health fair for nearly 100 elementary-age kids.
Her nerves, though, are quickly quelled by her pride.
“It’s rewarding to see everything that we’ve put into this and seeing it all come together,” she said.
The health fair is the culmination of months of hard work and preparation by these nursing students as part of their NUR 459 course, which focuses on the development, implementation and evaluation of a community action project.
Simply put, it’s a hands-on introduction into the world of community health nursing, where education, health promotion and illness prevention are the primary goals.
“We’re practicing our nursing skills by teaching people and hopefully encouraging them to lead healthier lives,” said Julie Nguyen, a senior nursing student.
Their instructor, College of Nursing and Health Innovation Clinical Assistant Professor Jennifer Costello said they spent an entire semester striving to get to this moment.
First, the students had to identify a population, then they had to assess it to find out what the health needs were.
“They took all that data and analyzed it in order to come up with the elements you see here, which are areas of community health where the kids need a little bit of extra help,” Costello said.
The result: several tables set up around the gym, with posters and activities addressing topics like how to wash your hands properly, day-to-day hygiene, stress management and specific activities to get the kids moving.
“The students took into account the areas the kids live in. There’s not a lot of green spaces so they can’t get out and safely exercise so they’re focusing on things the kids can do in place, like jumping rope and hopscotch,” Costello said.
After only a few minutes, it was clear the kids were having a good time at each of the tables. Of course, the goal is that their enjoyment translates to healthier habits that stick with them once the health fair is over.
“The benefits are limitless.”
— Vannesa Moreno, branch program manager
The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Phoenix was a gracious partner. The branch’s program manager, Vannesa Moreno, said it was a great experience working side-by-side with the nursing students in order to help make this event happen for the kids.
“This is really a two-fold opportunity for our kids, not only are they getting some amazing knowledge to back up a lot of the programs we’re doing here at the branch but they’re getting to see faces of kids who are in college and we hope that gets them excited, thinking, this is what I can do when I get to ASU,” Moreno said. "The benefits are limitless."
For the College of Nursing and Health Innovation students who will soon graduate and go into practice, it’s been a productive primer into an oft-forgotten area of nursing: community health.
“First of all, it's eye-opening and we can bring this to our future,” Rivera said.
“People are all different so being in the community you get to see on a more personal level as to what that environment is like for an individual person,” Nguyen said. “This event is most definitely going to help not only me but all of us here with our teaching.”
The students are graded on the event itself plus things like teamwork and the community assessment that led them to this intervention. However, Costello — a community health nurse herself, having worked as a school nurse for more than 20 years — would like to see this lesson last well beyond the final grades.
“I am hopeful that through the entire process they have learned how valuable a community assessment is and how important collaborating with interprofessional colleagues is to the success of a community,” she said.